A simple broccoli side that will finally welcome your family into the “Clean Plate Club".…
Red Wine Marinara
My go to version of a tomato/marinara sauce that’ll convince you never to buy store bought again.
It doesn’t matter if you call it gravy, red sauce, marinara or whatever – but everyone, especially Italians, need to know how to make a classic tomato sauce. Once I learned how simple it was, I quickly learned how I liked my sauce and created a recipe that everyone can use. Plus, you can alter it to however you prefer and for whatever recipe you prefer. I would suggest finding one that’s versatile and basic, double or triple the recipe, and freeze it for whatever you want to use it for in the future.
Classic marinara is a few simple ingredients that are just cooked well. It’s simply tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, oil, salt and pepper.
In my opinion, red sauce should be more acidic and thick vs. sweet and thin. The richer the flavor the better because it tends to pair well with wine. I gave it a go after seeing wine being used for braising meats and vegetables. And it WORKED! It was absolutely the rich acidity and bite that the sauce needed. Choose whatever you prefer. The biggest part of this is making sure that your sauce is balanced. That means an even amount of salt, acid and heat (if you prefer).
The other thing I like about sauce is that you can get creative with ingredients if you want to make it chunkier. Some would say I am starting to cross the line into bolognese, but I’m not yet. This is still simple and elevated with the wine. I tend to sauté some extra vegetables on the side, including extra garlic and add it to the sauce while cook. This is not a must, but it’s nice for flavor and texture. If you don’t want it to be chunky, sometimes adding extra sautéed vegetables and inserting the immersion blender allows for an added natural sweetness and flavor.
I could go one and on talking about sauce. It’s honestly the staple in an Italian kitchen. I will say though, mine is still simple. It’s teaching the correct proportions and technique IF you don’t use 100% fresh or whole tomatoes and break them down from their natural state. Canned in this recipe is a beautiful start and I add fresh roasted cherry tomatoes in mine to add sweetness without the added sugar.
I have to give credit to my father. We grew up with a tomato, vegetable and herb garden. When my dad made sauce the kitchen just smelled incredible and probably the reason I preferred his Italian food over most others. The simple perfume of garlic and herbs in a home kitchen brings so much joy and comfort to me and my family. I think once you learn how to make sauce yourself, regardless of where you get the ingredients, you will feel more of an appreciation for the sauce.
Last but not least – I assure you that I probably have never made this sauce the EXACT same way every time. It really is your own creation in the moment. As long as you stick to the basics, add whatever you want to make it your own.
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If you have leftovers of the Roasted Cherry Tomato Recipe, use this in place of the generic roasted cherry tomatoes.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin, divided
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (Basil, oregano, thyme, parsely, marjoram), divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small onion diced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
- ¼ cup vegetable stock or water
Added Vegetables (optional)
- ½ cup onion chopped
- ½ cup bell peppers chopped
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- ½ medium eggplant peeled, cubed
- 1 medium zucchini chopped
- ¾ cup mushrooms chopped
- Preheat the oven to 425°.
- In a 9” x 9” baking dish add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cherry tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
- Roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven.
- If you don’t have an immersion blender and prefer not to have big tomato chunks, add cherry tomatoes to a food processor and pulsate for 5-10 seconds.
- In a Dutch oven or large cooking pot add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat pot on medium-high. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes with salt and pepper. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and dried oregano. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until onions and garlic are translucent. Then add the wine and allow the alcohol to cook out for 5-7 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, roasted cherry tomatoes, vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Use immersion blender to gently break apart the cherry tomatoes for about 10-15 seconds. If you prefer the sauce to be more smooth than chunky, use an immersion blender for 20-30 seconds.
- Allow to simmer on low for 45-60 minutes.
Sauteed Vegetable option:
- For chunky vegetable options, use a large frying pan and heat pan with non stick cooking spray or olive oil and allow to heat for 1-2 minutes. Add onion, salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add onion to the sauce. Using the same pan, repeat steps with the other vegetables separately. If adding mushrooms, add salt when the mushrooms have cooked to avoid steam. Vegetables can be added to the sauce at anytime during the simmering or slow cooker process.
- Tomatoes – If you are using canned, you’re most likely going to see more suggestions for San Marzano tomatoes. These are great and more authentic to the Italian classic sauce, however, I tried using the non San Marzano tomatoes before and they tasted fine in the sauce. It’s really how classic you want to go. I also prefer skipping one of the 15 oz. cans and using a pint of roasted cherry tomatoes instead. But perfectly fine if you use two cans of diced tomatoes instead of the roasted cherry tomatoes.
- Wine – Not usually a typical ingredient but really works as far as managing the acid level. If you don’t want to open a bottle, use 1-2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.
- Garlic – Must be fresh. Refrain from the jarred minced garlic or garlic powder as your main source of garlic. Feel free to add garlic powder if you want more garlic flavor. If you’re roasting tomatoes though, you can always roast some heads and add the roasted cloves.
- Cheese rind – For NON VEGAN families – I usually save the ends of the parmesan cheese and throw the rinds into the sauce while it’s simmering for added flavor. It’s not needed, but again, it really adds flavor. If you are making large batches of this to freeze for later recipes, it might be best to not add cheese rind because you then can be more versatile with how you use the sauce. If you’re adding it to a 4 cheese lasagna right away – throw the rind into the sauce and you’ll love the added flavor! Make sure you remember to remove the rind after you complete the sauce.
- Herbs – I use more dried herbs right at the beginning when sautéing the onions and garlic because it brings out the flavor in the herbs. Plus – I like a more herb-forward sauce. At the end, add fresh herbs like basil, oregano and/or parsley.
- Sweetness – If you like a sweeter sauce to cut down the acid, add any preferred sweetener. Typically people add white sugar mid recipe when they can start to taste where the flavor is going. Honey is a great (but non vegan) touch. Also, if you are keeping this very lean – add shredded carrots to the onions in the beginning and that will add some sweetness naturally.
- (Optional) – Sautéed or roasted vegetables are a great addition if you want a chunkier sauce or you’re just trying to use up some vegetables. They add an another serving of vegetables that the kids won’t even know about!